Are we residing in a post-truth era in which “alternative facts” have taken the place of real ones and opinions are more important than facts? Where did we come from? Lee McIntyre analyzes the evolution of the post-truth phenomenon in this book, from science denial to the creation of “fake news,” from our psychological blind spots to the public’s retreat into “knowledge silos” in this installment of the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.
What is post-truth, exactly? Is it irrational thinking, political spin, widespread illusion, or outright lying? McIntyre examines current examples, including assertions about the size of the inauguration crowd, crime rates, and the popular vote, and discovers that post-truth is an ideology claim to dominance in which its proponents attempt to force someone to accept something in spite of the evidence. The denial of scientific facts regarding smoking, evolution, vaccines, and climate change provides a roadmap for more general fact denial, but post-truth did not start with the 2016 election. The introduction of false news as a political tool, the collapse of traditional media, and the rise of social media, along with the inbuilt cognitive biases that lead us to believe that our conclusions are supported by sound reasoning even when they are not, create the perfect environment for post-truth. McIntyre also makes the daring claim that the right wing’s attacks on science and facts are influenced by postmodernism, notably the notion that there is no such thing as objective truth.
McIntyre contends that we can combat post-truth and that recognizing it as such is the first step in doing so.